A boy readingWe all know that kids often admire the men in their lives – and often it’s because men possess the mystery and charm that comes from keeping a greater distance than the many women in most kids’ day-to-day existences. For boys in particular, it means that whatever these men do, the kids will take seriously.

Because many men aren’t enthusiastic readers, and in particular not readers of books, boys often will quickly get the message that reading isn’t a thing that men do. The Reading Rockets site from WETA Public Television recently posted two pages of tips on ways for men to encourage children’s literacy. Here’s one, and here’s another from the National Literacy Trust in the UK. These pages were created with fathers in mind, but not all kids have fathers who play active roles in their lives. Depending on the family situation, moms’ boyfriends, or children’s uncles, grandfathers, and male family friends can fill this role, too.

The most important part of this message, though, applies to all of us who spend time around kids, and is titled “Walk the walk”:

Your child learns from what you do. Make sure the messages you are sending about reading tell your child that knowledge and literacy are valuable, achievable, and powerful.

All men who interact, even in small ways, with children need to get this message. It’s harder for those of us in public libraries to talk and work directly with the men we need most to reach – the ones who aren’t readers, yet have children at home. Any time we have the opportunity to speak with them, we should make it a priority.